Dive into a world of skiing unknown mountain ranges, traveling and cultural experience.
Interview with Julian Vogel – the creative Mastermind behind the Snowmads Truck Paint Job
Julian Vogel, artist and van life lover. Famous for his World Peace Walls all around the globe. He’s the creative mastermind behind the paint job of our Snowmads Truck and Markus Aschers‘ van „Blacky“. In our interview he’s talking about his connection to Snowmads, van life, freedom and his World Peace Walls.
Julian, how did you get in touch with the Snowmads?
Hey, Fabi contacted me a while ago, because he heard about my Project World Peace Walls where I travel to different areas around the World to paint Murals for Peace.
„He asked me if I could paint the Snowmads Truck from outside. Thats how it started.“
What is Snowmads for you?
Snowmads for me is a community of young people, who live their dream, they are curious and creative, openminded and conscious about their environment, cultures and nature.
Do you think there is a connection between art, skiing and vanlife?
Sure, van live gives you the most freedom, you live simplicity and flexibility, it brings you to every place you want to go. On the way you find new mountains or inspirations, you meet people on the road with similar interests and you can always share your stories.
„Van Life is a way of art.“
You’ve built up your own camper van some time ago – inspired by the Snowmads?
Of course I am inspired by the Snowmads Truck and lifestyle and for me its the best way to travel. But my Truck is still under construction, but it will be finished soon.
The World Peace Wall is one of your projects that really impressed us – what’s the idea behind and how do you see the future of the project?
Good to hear, thanks so much!
It all began in 2007 when I traveled to Iraq and I was overcome with an idea to leave something behind. This spontaneous urge took the form of a mural on the walls of an old Hussein Palace in the North of Iraq, or my first “World Peace Wall.” Since then, I painted around 30 walls all around the globe.
The Idea is to use the local language for my murals as well as cultural symbols and elements to connect fully with the observer. If somebody thinks about peace, he will act more peacefully. I try to change perspectives, thoughts and attitudes with a silent revolution, through a painted message. Everything happening around us, originates in our minds. What we think is our reality. Our thoughts become words, our words become actions, actions become habits and habits form our outlook and personality.
Since ancient times people have been influenced by this principle. Church paintings, propaganda and advertising campaigns all require attention and channel thoughts into one direction.
„Peace can only be achieved by our attitude.“
The more human beings are at peace with themselves, the more they surrender fighting against themselves and the flow of life, the more they create a world of tolerance and love around them. The „World Peace Walls“ in prominent places of the world give an impulse to start a dialogue about peace – a message that, similarly to a spiritual mantra, is repeated over and over again and therefore slowly manifests itself in reality.“
Any travel plans for this summer?
Not yet, but sometimes wanderlust overwhelmes me and I go where the wind blows.
„Fabi meets…“ is a series of interviews with Fabian Lentsch and other skiers, friends and people he meets on the road. Same questions, different answers!
Neil Williman, mainly Kiwi, partly English, living in Austria with a Swedish lady he met in France. Beside skiing he’s working as commentator and engineer. He’s been filming with Fabi since 2013 after meeting him and Raphi Webhofer in New Zealand. Their welcoming and generous ways are a big part of the reason why he ended up moving to Innsbruck. Neil has been part of the Snowmads films A Journey Towards Eastern Suns , Ya Mas and Snowmads – Sense of Home . Neil is also well known as the voice of the Freeride World Tour.
How was it to grow up in New Zealand?
Good, but not very ski focused, the closest ski hill was 1.5 hours drive then 1.5 hours walk away! And it only had rope tows that you needed a special harness to ride. Eventually I moved to Europe, mainly because of the skiing.
What do you think about skiing? Have you ever tried it or seen someone ski? What do you associate with it?
Yep I love it and I do it a lot. Skiing means a lot to me, especially since it gives travelling such a sense of purpose since. It’s something you can share with people at home, or on the road, whether you know them well or you just met them.
Why did you choose this job/career?
Being a pro skier just kind of happened from following my dreams and heart.
What are you most passionate about and why and what makes you happy?
Skiing, travelling, friends. They just go so well together since the mountains bring people together in such a special way.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Follow your heart just as much as your head.
What is freedom to you?
The fact that we can travel to pretty much anywhere in the world that we want to is pretty special, it’s something that not everybody has the chance to do and I appreciate it very much.
Love, what is it?
Being ready to give something back to a person or thing that makes you happy.
How do you spend most of your free time?
Skiing, biking, playing guitar or with firestick.
What does money mean to you?
A necessary evil that allows me to do the things I love
The Roots of Snowmads – Interview with Markus Ascher
Ever wondered how the whole Snowmads idea started? Markus Ascher is talking about the first steps, how things developed and about the process of refurbishing the old fire truck. Read the full story now!
Markus „Moggä“ Ascher, skier, life artist and Snowmad from the very beginning! Moggä introduced the idea of combining skiing and vanlife with „Blacky“ , his 4wd Mercedes van. When Fabi came up with the idea of refurbishing an old fire truck, he didn’t hesitate to join the project and play an important role in the whole process of turning an old fire truck into an outstanding and unique vehicle to travel the world with.
From your perspective: when and where would you say Snowmads was born?
I guess I can’t name this one specific birth date or place, it was more like a years long process leading up to what Snowmads is today. If you go all the way back the idea of chasing the snow and exploring mountains in a camper van started with a trip to Switzerland where Fabi, Matthias Egger and Jonas Blum, a swiss photographer borrowed the Volkswagen van of Fabis parents, in lack of money for hotels. We were freezing our asses off in the van because we neither had a heating system nor did we have good sleeping bags with minus 10 degrees outside. I remember Matthi saying „Moggä, i think my nose is frozen“ while shivering next to me in the middle of the night. Nevertheless we had some of the most amazing days of tree runs in that Swiss valley – thanks to a nice lady called „Chrige“ who we met in the gondola. She let us sleep on the floor in her living room, I don’t know if we could have made the whole week in the camper… That was in 2011 and we definitely learned that for winter camping you need a proper vehicle. We didn’t have that, neither did we have the money to buy it or the knowledge to build one. But the plant was seeded so to say and after some more years it started flowering.
„Moggä, we need to build another van like yours, but bigger and for more people“.
How did the whole idea of building the Snowmads-Truck develop?
It probably started with a phone call from Fabi some weeks after he, unexpected for almost everyone, quit the Freeride World Tour in 2015. He called and said „Moggä, we need to build another van like yours, but bigger and for more people“.
Two or three years before that Fabi went on a six months road trip to climb, fly and ski with an almost falling apart standard camper van you can find in every camp ground, which him and two friends Leo and Domi bought for around 5000 Euros. They drove from Austria all the way to Kirgistan, learned how to travel big distances and to live on the road – even with a far from perfect vehicle for those dusty dirtroads. I remember when Fabi told me that one time their engine dropped down onto the road in the Kirgistan no mans land. When they came back the car was a total wreck for european standards. But Fabi still says it was one of his best trips. Meanwhile I had rebuilt myself an old fire fighter truck with the goal to build a winter camping van which turned out really nice. The inspiration came from a 3 months surf trip to Portugal with my girlfriend in a super small and really basic van, just big enough for the two of us and no luxury whatsoever. We saw a lot of surf bums living at the beaches in their big, old Mercedes Trucks. Rusty, but luxury villas compared to our Renault Espace, some of them even had wood stoves inside.
„ The idea to bring that surfing lifestyle to the mountains fascinated me. So the idea for my second, now bigger van was born.„
The idea to bring that surfing lifestyle to the mountains fascinated me. So the idea for my second, now bigger van was born. I finished it just the same season as Fabi had his short stint on the Freeride Worldtour and it was his second FWT stop in Andorra coming up. We decided to drive to the Pyrenees one week before the contest to visit Aymar Navarro and we had an amazing time! Camping in the parking lot and skiing really nice lines in front of our door. When Fabi and Aymar left for Andorra and the competition Fabi already was like „Man, I really don’t feel like competition, I would much rather stay here“ But yeah, usually when you’ve qualified for the tour, you just go there because as a freerider its one of the best opportunities to make it as a professional. Not so Fabi and when we had a chat on the phone the next day he was really considering quitting the tour – one day later he was already sitting in the bus on his way home. Of course we were far from being the only ones quite stunned by Fabis move to quit the world tour at the second stop in his first year. His explanation blog post reached a lot of people and gave everyone to understand that he wants to explore the world outside the contest scene. That was also the time when that „Moggä, we need to build a bigger van“ phone call happened… We were still talking about a „van“ back then.
From a crazy idea to suddenly having bought an old fire truck – what happened in-between?
From the idea to buying the truck it was just one and a half months actually. We quickly saw that with buying and rebuilding a simple van we ́ll never be able to fit eight people plus equipment and necessities like water and food and make that vehicle drive well in the offroads. So we came to a Mercedes Truck from 1985 that was actually used as a lorry in gravel pits and construction yards to carry heavy loads on heavy roads. You don’t see them a lot here in Europe anymore, in the east, specially Iran, you do a lot. If you see them here they’re mainly rebuilt into expedition trucks, cause they’re one of the most reliable vehicles you can think of. Really basic, but really well built. Fabi was just on a filming trip in Alaska with Legs of Steel and we were talking a lot on Skype, when I found the right model of the truck for sale on a scrapyard in Hamburg. Ready to be shipped to Africa, thats what usually happens to them when they get discharged from European Fire Departments with usually really little kilometers on them.
The Snowmads Truck had 33.000km on it. The Price and condition of the Truck was too good to let it go, even though we had no fixed plan for the further rebuilding. So I took the train there and bought it for Fabi. It took one more month that he actually saw what he had just bought. Fun fact: None of us was even allowed to drive it, cause it is a Truck with more than 7,5 Tons and neither Fabi or me had the license for that.
„We talked to many people and companies if they would help us build the truck and quite a few of them told us, especially when we told them details, that we are crazy and would have no chance to do that with our amount of money.„
The long process of refurbishing the old fire truck and finally hitting the road for the first time with the Snowmads-Truck. How would you describe that time?
Woah that was crazy! Fabi once said that was probably the most exhausting time in his life. As I said, when we bought the truck we didn’t have a fixed plan and none of us had ever build something like that. We just had the experience and blueprint of my van, but the truck was an incomparably bigger project. The idea to buy the truck, put it in front of my house and rebuild it like I basically did with my van was not possible with that one, for once just because of its sheer size. We talked to many people and companies if they would help us build the truck and quite a few of them told us, especially when we told them details, that we are crazy and would have no chance to do that with our amount of money. Luckily Fabis‘ manager Karin of NINE&ONE had a lot of trust in our crazy idea and also Fabis‘ long time sponsors Red Bull and Scott where willing to join the adventure. But still we were far from being on a paved road and the rebuilding turned out to be 6 months of craziness that would actually fill another blog post. But in the end the truck turned out to be amazing!
„With passion you can achieve a lot that is thought to be impossible – and we definitely have a lot of passion! „
What do you connect with Snowmads? Which values? What kind of lifestyle?
I guess the story of how it was born shows quite a lot of what Snowmads is. It’s about realizing things you dream of, even when it seems unreachable or even impossible. I guess we learned that from skiing, just because no one has done a line you feel absolutely good with doesn’t mean it’s not possible – even if there will be people telling you that it is. When we came up with the idea of the truck and especially details about it, for example the fact that we wanted to insulate it with sheep wool cause we like natural materials, many people and even offroad camper building experts told us we were idiots. Most of them didn’t even believe we would be able to build something like a functioning truck in the first place, cause of too little money, not enough time and too little knowledge.
„One of the essences of Snowmads: going on adventures that are deemed impossible for whatever reasons„
Probably you’ll always have those reactions… But yeah, with passion you can achieve a lot that is thought to impossible – and we definitely have a lot of passion! Thats probably one of the essences of Snowmads, going on adventures that are deemed impossible for whatever reasons. I can tell you, buidling the truck was not the last time we got a lot of questionmarks on faces for our ideas… Generally we all love to be outside in the nature, the mountains, we love to ski, love to explore remote places and cultures and make deep connections with the people and places we meet. And we try to do all of that with open hearts and minds. I can tell you it was a crazy but beautiful ride till now and I’m looking forward to what’s still to come!
Want to know more about Markus „Moggä“ Ascher? Check out his episode from our webisode Snowmads Home Stories!
Photo Credits Florian Breitenberger Marco Freudenreich Fabian Lentsch Markus Ascher NINE&ONE Thank you!
Snowmads – Watch List
Welcome to the final round of our Snowmads approved film recommendations
Before you read on: Have you already seen our first two Snowmads watch lists? Find them here Part 1 & Part 2
As the first two versions of our Snowmads recommended films have all been connected to the Snowmads universe in some way, we’re now offering you a fine selection of films we just really like and think they are highly recommendable. An exception here is TWENTY with our friend Léo Slemett. We really hope you liked our watchlists and enjoyed a couple of hours skiing fine lines and good times… at least mentally and on your screen.
Here’s our final Snowmads approved selection for you:
HAMKUMMEN – HOMECOMING
Should we travel more or think more about homecoming? This question photographer and filmmaker Lukas Dürnegger asks himself in this movie.
Zabardast means „fantastic“ in the Hindi language – Zabardast is a definitely a fantastic movie, a movie about an expedition to the great Himalayas of Pakistan, a movie that really impressed us.
Redefining steep skiing with Jeremy Heitz and Sam Anthamatten – meanwhile this movie of Jeremy and Sam skiing ticking off 15 4000m peaks and their steep faces is almost a classic. By the way: Part two of La Liste is about to drop soon, stay tuned.
TWENTY – An accidental history of free riding by Guido Perrini
TWENTY is the culmination of twenty years of big mountain filming, and raises the question of ‘is it worth it?’ Twenty is an emotional story of the development of freeriding, the passion for being out in the mountains and why the characters return to it again and again, even after tragedy strikes.
Here you go – lean back, grab a cold one and enjoy!
A new week of staying at home, doing home workouts, dreaming of spring skiing and of course hiding from that world wide virus pandemic is coming up. Watching a good movie is always a good way to recover from post Easter workouts or when isolation boredom kicks in. Watching a good ski movie is the best way to dream of big missions and make new plans for when that bloody virus is gone!
Here’s our Snowmads approved selection for you:
Follow a Brazilian couple on their skiing vacation in Austria. A nice mix of comedy and skiing, starring Snowmads Raphi Webhofer and produced by our friends of Whiteroom Production.
TIEN SHAN – A KYRGYZ SKI ADVENTURE
The movie shows the story of four friends, including Fabian Lentsch, traveling to the former soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan in 2012. Super confident they made their way into the Tien Shan mountain range, where they were confronted with snow conditions they have never seen before.
ALTAI – AN UNEXPECTED FORTUNE
Another Whiteroom production. In Spring 2014 the Austrian and German ski alpinists David Pitschmann, Fabian Lentsch, Joi Hoffmann, Michael Trojer and Jakob Schweighofer headed to the remote Russian Altai Mountains in hope to discover a skier’s paradise.
Follow the journey of our Spanish friend and Snowmads Aymar Navarro, who has also been part of YA MAS, and Txema Trull on their annual trip to South America’s austral winter an the incredible Andes mountain range. An epic adventure full of gnarly lines and sharing experiences with local skiers from Chile and Argentina as well as internationally known riders like Leo Slemett and Marion Haerty.
Late season 2017. Samuel Anthamatten, Markus Eder, & Leo Slemett head to Svaneti Georgia to hopefully climb Ushba and make a first descent on skis. This mystical 4710m mountain in the Caucasus Mountains is very remote and must be accessed on foot. Before the ascent the crew gets to warm up the legs and experience some of the best skiing they have ever had in a wild heli-ski session in epic conditions. Leo Slemett has also been part of the very first NINE&ONE / Snowmads production A JOURNEY TOWARDS EASTERN SUNS.
Here you go – lean back, grab a cold one and enjoy!
In 2016 Fabian Lentsch and the Snowmads crew get lost in nipple-deep turkish powder
After a long and unsuccessful search for new tracks, the urgent need for powder among the Snowmads crew gets almost unbearable, but when they arrive in Yaylalar they are rewarded for their relentless efforts. This little remote and isolated mountain village, which often is cut off from the rest of the world, is surrounded by the impressive Kaçkar Mountain Range and offers countless opportunities. Neil William, Dane Tudor and Markus Ascher are keeping Fabi company and together they enjoy the sheer endless amount of powder. Unfortunately the snow conditions appear to be very sketchy and the boys have to be careful in the choice of their lines. After they narrowly escape an avalanche they decide to stay below the tree line, which still gives them numerous options. It seems like Turkey is the place to be, when the Alps lack snow.
Sharing the Stoke in Armenia
The Snowmads on their journey to the east
This Episode sees the Snowmads venture off course following some botched navigation, but after some backtracking, the boys find their way to Aragatz, Armenia. With less-than-ideal conditions, the crew set out to enjoy the culture, meet some local folks, and share the stoke of skiing. Sometimes, it’s less about that perfect big mountain line, and more-so, having fun with your friends and embracing the cool places skiing can take you.
Journey to the Persian Gulf
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